Bruno began his career in Switzerland before moving to Canada where he was employed at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. After working as Executive Chef for Cara Operations, he was appointed to the position of Catering Manager for Canadian Pacific Air Lines, a position that he held for 12 years before opening La Belle Auberge as Chef and Owner.
An honoured member of the Chaîne, Bruno was a founding member of the Bailliage of Vancouver. He served as the Bailliage’s first Vice Conseiller Culinaire from 1973 until 1990.
His first international competition experience came as Team Captain of the Western Canadian Team in Frankfurt in 1976. Bruno was a Team Member for Team Canada at the competition in Osaka in 1983 and Team Member of the World Champion Team Canada at the Culinary Olympics in Frankfurt in 1984 – a win over 32 other teams from around the world.
He then moved on to be a Team Manager at Province level before leading Team Canada at the 1996 Olympics where they won 3 gold and 1 bronze medals. Bruno remains an active coach of the Canadian Bocuse d’Or Team, Team British Columbia and the Canadian National Culinary Team, and he has judged at all levels of competition, most recently serving as the Canadian Judge for the 2015 Bocuse d’Or.
Bruno’s success can be measured not only by the exquisite food and service found in his beautiful heritage house establishment but by his devotion to and love of the culinary arts. Teacher and mentor of many young cooks, Bruno is recognized around the world as one of the leaders of his profession.
Within the confines of his restaurant, his employees are provided with continual opportunities for growth and motivation, ensuring that they have both variety and excitement in their work. Bruno has trained many excellent chefs in the kitchen of La Belle Auberge. All are treated to a complete and thorough education in the culinary arts and are exposed to every aspect of the profession, including opportunities for entering (and winning!) culinary competitions.
Bruno is past President and Chairman of the Canadian Culinary Federation and Founder and Chairman of the BC Culinary Arts Foundation. Bruno has been the recipient of countless awards including the Order of British Columbia, the Queen’s Jubilee Award, and has been honoured by his peers in the USA by being inducted into the American Academy of Chefs’ Hall of Fame.
In an exclusive interview with the Chaîne News On-line, Bruno responded openly to a series of questions regarding his culinary heritage and view on his profession.
From where does your love of Gastronomy come?
There are many reasons. There is the pleasure you always get from knowing that what you do is appreciated by those that enjoy it. And, of course, there is always the pleasure of utilizing nature’s gifts from the fresh fish to the farmers produce, vegetables and meats to create a new and wonderful dining experience for your patrons every day.
You have obviously inspired a lot of young chefs over the years. From where do you draw your inspiration?
Luckily for me, I started to compete at a young age. I would say that is the source of my inspiration. By going and participating in international events, you get a chance to see some of the best young cooks in the world experimenting with the latest innovations, not just in our classical cuisine.
You learn from other cultures. If you can adapt and overlap all of this with our cuisine, surprisingly you often come up with something extraordinary, new and innovative. Those discoveries add to your enthusiasm and are a great motivator for any chef that strives to provide something new and interesting for his guests. It is no less important to demonstrate these tools and implant that desire in the young chefs around you.
What would you say have been the biggest developments in gastronomy you have witnessed in your time as a chef?
That is a huge question. Given my age, I have seen enormous changes and strides. As an apprentice cook in the 60’s, you didn’t dare create anything of your own. In those days, that was seen as arrogant. You only used classic recipes for the sake of all the great chefs that had come before and “knew it all”.
The first great change came in the early 70’s courtesy of Chef Paul Bocuse and his “nouvelle cuisine”. All of a sudden new concepts outside of the known classical recipes were not only born but encouraged by a growing tidal wave of chefs.
I recall using his lobster stew (served at less than 80 degrees) in First Class on Canadian Pacific Airlines. As success with concepts like that became obvious, everyone else began looking for new ideas. The pace of innovation accelerated. Other chefs followed with concepts like “cuisine minceur”. All came and went but the key was that the whole air of change gave opportunities to young chefs to go and be creative without fear of being scolded. Soon the descriptions on menus became understandable to the customers who, for the most part, had never got used to classical terms!
There was fusion, something that brought us much joy and a chance to modernize and challenge oneself with what could work, not what did work. That area was important, as it changed not only the food but changed the way cooks thought, allowing them to be open minded and creative.
All chefs had the opportunity to learn more about food and its compositions, “food science” as they called it. Unfortunately, most of us, including me, stuck our heads in the sand and were happy with what we knew.
Then one day, one of us decided to get together with scientists and started to ask questions. He became the most famous chef of the day, “El Bulli “from whose inquiring mind many chefs now draw their inspiration. Most of his products were used for years in large food producing companies. We just didn’t care to find out. Now, we all know and the rest is history as they say.
What do you think are the most significant trends, and perhaps challenges, faced by gastronomy today?
The question of sustainability comes to mind! As the world becomes more populated, is it more important to cook only the best, or should the question really be are we making the best use of the product as a whole?
The oceans are not getting a needed rest to replenish and soon there will be a shortage of fish as we know it. Possibly less is better. One of the more hopeful partnerships we now have is the fast-growing relationship with our local growers. That relationship may help overcome some of the other more negative outlooks on food, and therefore gastronomy as overall.
What do you think today’s chefs should be doing to keep moving gastronomy to a new level?
Be innovative; work as a team (every opinion counts); look around you; educate your customer; love what you do and demand the same from all your staff; RESPECT all food: waste not, want not – make sure it is used somewhere else!
What advice would you give to a young and aspiring chef?
If you want to be seen, stand up! In our kitchens that means be there and give it 110 % every day. If you want to be heard, read food stuff, dream food stuff, compete – that is your source of strength and innovation.
One bad habit of chefs is to believe you do not get respect until you have proven worthy of it. Gastronomy is a life-long commitment. If you take it seriously, you will be rewarded with respect – and sometimes even some tangibles.